Review: World’s Longest Flight on Singapore Airlines SQ23 JFK-SIN in Business Class

Intro

In May 2022 I finally experienced the world’s longest flight aboard Singapore Airlines flight SQ23 New York’s JFK to Singapore SIN. This is by a technicality, the true longest flight in the world. It is a couple of miles longer and about 5-10 minutes on average longer flying time than Newark EWR to SIN. Both are longer than the other direction from Singapore. Regardless all 4 flights are long and all clock in between 18-19 hours of flight time. They are operated by the only fleet of Airbus A350-900ULRs.

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My Thoughts?

A great way to fly, indeed. I was daunted, intimidated, and excited by the prospect of being on an airplane for 19 hours. I love flying, I love planes, but regardless that is a long span of uninterrupted time in a single seat, be it in business or premium economy class. Would it be endless? Would I be bored even with Krisworld’s extensive entertainment? Would I starve? Would I be super dehydrated? Turns out none of that happened. It is long, it is quite amazing that you get a full night’s sleep and you are not even halfway there yet. But Singapore Airlines has designed the service and flow of this flight to help you rest and ensure you arent tired or starving. The food offered is not overly heavy or rich which helps with not feeling too tired on the journey. The A350 is a quiet plane and technology on planes these days allow for a far less dry cabin. Singapore Airlines also managed to keep the cabin at, what was to me, just the right temperature. Not at all freezing or too warm, felt just right with a blanket while sleeping, didnt once sweat or shiver on the flight. It is, surprisingly to me, a fantastic flight. I can see why it is a popular option for people needing to fly to Singapore, Southeast Asia or Australasia. It is efficient, convenient, and comfortable. I have since heard from a few folks who have done it in both cabins and they agree it is one of their favorite flights in either cabin.

Background

Singapore Airlines’ nonstop service from Singapore to New York has long been an aviation bucket list item for me ever since the airline first revolutionized nonstop flights in 2004 with their A340-500 “Leadership” aircraft in a largely business class cabin and what was named at the time “Executive Economy” which was an odd in between economy and premium economy. The plane then became a 100 seater business class only jet before the service was suspended in 2013 with the retirement of the A340-500 and rising fuel costs. They then relaunched the nonstop services to Newark and Los Angeles with the arrival of the A350-900ULR in 2018 in a 67 business class and 94 premium economy class (including 3 rows with the coveted “solo” premium economy window seats in the back) configuration.

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At first, it was only Newark to Singapore, which was already the longest flight in the world but in 2020 during the COVID Pandemic, the airline changed it to JFK. Now the airline flies both Newark and JFK as well as JFK through Frankfurt to Singapore on an A380 with the suites.

Award availability on these nonstop flights are actually very hard to find, especially on saver awards, and after Singapore Airlines raised the award chart, its now 99,000 Krisflyer miles. For my itinerary of JFK-SIN-TPE, it is 110,000 Krisflyer miles. These flights do very well and are consistently full, especially these days as Singapore has opened up completely to vaccinated travelers. This time, I went for the JFK-SIN-TPE routing as this was an opportune way to get to experience the flight and also get me home to Taipei.

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At first there was only window seat available to select when I booked, which was 26K. I checked Expertflyer and saw that the entire front business class section was blocked off with a handful occupied. The bulkhead seats in the larger cabin, row 19, were available. However, not available to select on Singapore Airlines app or website. I called Krisflyer service line, and they were less than helpful as they just said no more seats to select when I asked to change my seat. Thankfully at check-in, which is 48 hours prior to departure on SQ, you could select row 19, and 19K bassinet bulkhead window seat was available, so I snatched it. The bulkhead seats are definitely preferable on these flights with the added legroom and space to stretch and sleep. Though I did test out the regular seats as one was empty, and its really not as bad as most aviation bloggers claim or complain about. Actually nothing about these seats is as dramatically bad as they all complain about.

The Flight

Date: May 4, 2022

Flight: SQ 23, JFK – SIN

Aircraft: 9V-SGD, A350-900ULR

Distance: 9,542 miles, 18 Hours 35 Minutes; 23:05 Dep, 05:55 +2 Arr.

Seat: 19K, Business Class

Ground

Check-in at JFK was a complete and utter mess. They system had failed earlier in the evening causing a massive line and delay for check-in on many airlines. The line was chaotic and disorganized though the contracted ground staff remained calm and did his best. They needed to get a full A380 on SQ 25 JFK-FRA-SIN quickly processed as it was 7:45PM and that flight left at 8:55PM. I was told to wait in line on the side with everyone else on SQ23, even though I observed many business class passengers bypassing this line. Everyone in my line was confused. It took about 50 minutes to fully process the SQ25 passengers. I had previously confirmed with the ground staff that ALL passengers on SQ23 was to line up in the line I was in. I later checked again, this time confirming I was in business, he apologized for the confusion and let me join Solitaire/Suites line as a service recovery move, which I was surprised and grateful for, I just wanted to join the correct line. Shortly thereafter I was checked in, docs checked and through CLEAR, as TSA Pre was closed by that time. Sadly, this meant I could not check out the American Express Centurion lounge as they close at 9PM.

Singapore Airlines actually uses the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK. Its a great lounge with good food, drinks, seating and views. Though this time around, I felt service fell short. It might have been that since my last visit in January 2022, they updated the QR code Menu wherein you can order directly from the app, so the staff were not as proactive about approaching you, unless you were a VIP or frequent traveler it seemed. I did not eat too much at the lounge but had a pulled pork bao, and took the chance to drink up on lots of water, juice but also some champagne.

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I got to the gate early as I was just so excited. 30 minutes prior to departure, right on time, boarding commenced.

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Boarding 

The aft business class cabin is massive with 11 rows of business class seats. It is airy though with no central overhead bins. The subdued lighting, beige, grey, brass, and brown tones create and warm and inviting cabin. I had read about how wide these seats are, and indeed they really are very wide. But its not as awkward as many complain.

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There are a few storage areas in the armrest/seat. The upper storage area has power outlets, and its smart of Singapore Airlines to have multiple headphone jacks, on either side of the seats. Touchscreen video monitor handset. There is also a large adjustable (height and position) tray table. One the armrest are seat controls and a do not disturb button. At the seat was a throw pillow and the care/sanitation kit, in the armrest storage was headphones and water bottle. The front of the seat houses the TV, bulkhead seats only have the mirror, regular seats have the added beverage stand. The footrest area of the bulkhead seats are their biggest selling point, so much space. This created for a comfortable sleep and space to stretch out and get comfortable.

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No amenities or amenity kit at the seat. The SQ App indicated amenity kits were available upon request. After the meal service, I asked, and was told they didnt carry any on this flight but instead had individual items and I was handed the eye mask, slippers and socks. Additional things such as combs, shaving kit are available in the lavatories. Not a huge bother for me as I do bring my own chapstick/hand lotion anyways, but a bit confusing and inconsistent with what the app said, a friend who flew SQ22 SIN-JFK the day before confirmed he also didnt have amenity kits.

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As boarding continued, the flight attendants came through with their pre-departure service. Which oddly did not include a pre-departure beverage offering of any sort. They came through to confirm any pre-order meals first, then took meal orders as well as post-departure beverage service orders. While SQ no longer hands out menus (what I gather it is now a permanent thing), the crew still do have a copy of a print menu for passengers to view in case they missed the memo that the menus are now all on the app. Apologies, I forgot to screenshot the menu before it became unavailable. The flight attendants also came through to offer the blanket, which hide behind the seat, and open the seal for you. Love this level of service and engagement with passengers. U.S. carriers barely come through to take the plastic wrappers of blankets / headphones from you. Of course, all crew addressed everyone by their names and in true SQ fashion, everyone was so nice, proactive and professional. Though, over all my crew on this flight weren’t exactly the most amazing exceed expectation SQ crew, but they were solid and no request was too much. I do think a few factors played into this, 1) it was a near full flight, and there are a lot of business class seats to service 2) its a long overnight flight and most passengers go right to sleep anyways 3) it is a long and grueling journey for them as well.  Yes, sometimes SQ crew may not feel as personable and a bit distant compared to more casual American or European crews, but they truly do offer exceptional and proper service.

After the safety video, a short introduction video to business class seats was played including instructions on how to fold your seat into the bed. I didnt realize they did this. Most aviation bloggers write as if these seats require an engineering degree to operate and turn into a bed and that its only doable by a flight attendant, not so much. Is it the most practical or best seat design out there? Certainly not, but I was expecting so much worse based on everything I have read and watched.

After a short delay with loading bags which were affected by the system outage, we pushed back and a short taxi later we were by the runway, at 11PM, there is not much of a rush hour at JFK, thank god. Soon we were airborne for our long journey across the Atlantic, over Europe, through the Middle East, over India and through Malaysia before arriving in Singapore. The flight now avoids Russian airspace.

Inflight

After we reached 10,000 feet, I reclined my seat and tried the various functions. Not too many functions or gadgets. But I was surprised that it was quite comfortable in a reclined position. It does not recline terribly far, but the legrest does come all the way up and its enough of a recline to be comfortable and relax in, not sure what all the complaints are about out there. Yes, in a normal seat you sort of have to sit sideways to get your legs fully stretched out into the footwell, but I am a side sleep and someone who sits and relaxes in weird positions, much to the detriment of my body, so I am not so bothered by this.

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Full reclined position

I was shortly brought my Singapore sling and nuts, due to COVID measures still in place, they still serve packaged instead of placing them in a saucer/plate. Small detail, but its fine.

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The flight is designed as such. First “lighter” meal service commences right after takeoff. The “main” meal service begins halfway through the flight and is offered up until 2 hours before arrival. In addition there are snacks and refreshments you can order, as well as snacks to grab from a snack basket in the galley. 1 champagne, 2 white wines, 2 reds, and a solid liquor / cocktail selection including an Aberfeldy 16 year, lots of teas and coffees to choose from. There are also a nice selection of non-alcoholic cocktails and beverages to choose from as well.

After post-departure beverages, the cart began to roll through with the first meal service. This was served on a tray.

First up was smoked trout salad and paired with an Australian chardonnay. The salad was quite good. Nice smoked trout.

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Bread service, chose Garlic bread and wheat roll, the SQ garlic bread is simply the best.

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I then switched to have a glass of the Bordeaux on offer.

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Unfortunately, Book the cook options are currently limited out of NYC because of COVID measures and limitations. But nonetheless I tried it and booked Stir Fry chicken in Chinese wine sauce with veggies and jasmine rice. Quite fragrant and tasty.

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The crew were very proactive in refilling my water. Mixed offerings of refilling the wine occasionally got offered and occasionally had to ask, but most of the time they offered.

Meal wrapped up with Ben and Jerry’s Rocky Road ice cream for dessert. The post-departure service took around 1.5-2 hours, quite efficient.

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When asked if I needed anything else such as coffee, tea, digestif, I said I was ok but asked for the amenity kit and as mentioned was told not available but was promptly brought slippers, eye mask and socks. I then changed into my own pajamas (funnily enough I brought QR Q Suites PJs), as SQ does not provide pajamas in business class.

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When I returned to my seat, my glass and empty water bottle had been cleared and replaced with a new water bottle. Though this ended up being the only time an empty water bottle I had was replaced during the flight, regardless still appreciate that attention to detail and proactive service. I did notice a downside to the wide seats, is it can be harder for the flight attendants to reach over you to clear away items on your armrest/storage area.

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The flight attendants do offer to turn your seat into a bed. I decided to try for myself, and found it to be fairly intuitive and easy. You lift a latch in the back of the seat, fold it over, extend the mattress pad, and voila, a bed! There are two extra pillows provided as well. Total 3 pillows, a blanket and mattress pad, yes its a bit on the firmer side, but I dont mind, still found it to be a comfortable bed. Even more so in the bulkhead with all that extra room to stretch and move your feet and ability to sleep straight, though knowing how I often sleep, I’d have been ok with my feet in the cozy footwell, sleeping on my side/ at an angle.

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I woke up after a 5 or so hour sleep and saw that we still had 11 hours to go. This is when I really felt the length of this flight.

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I helped myself to some chips from the snack basket. Each time I was on my way out of the lavatory back to my seat or visiting the galley for a snack, the flight attendants would ask if I needed anything to drink or needed anything in general. Love that SQ touch.

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I decided to have a midflight pour of Aberfeldy 16 year. I do wish they ask if you like it on the rocks or neat, it didnt occur to me to specify neat. Not a big deal, still delicious. They even brought out more nuts to go with the whisky, which I had to decline as the second meal service was in a few hours.

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After another short nap, we hit the halfway point at 9 hours into the flight, flying over Europe, the second meal service began. They do slowly brighten the cabin lights for this service. It seemed most passengers did wake up for this meal service. It was also morning in Europe and bright outside.

Though this meal was still served from the carts, it was tray-less and the crew set up each tray table.

First up was Orange-braised baby beet salad with endive, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts. Part of a Singapore Airlines collaboration with San Diego based wellness retreat Golden Door to design wellness and healthier meals on these long flights. It was light, refreshing, a tad tangy and over all very good.

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I had to go for another round of amazing garlic bread, of course.

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Singapore Air x Golden Door meal:
Signature Roasted black cod with edamame puree, ginger turmeric roasted carrots and forbidden rice. It was so good, flavorful yet light and the cod was cooked perfectly with a slight smokiness to it with a slight sweetness from the edamame puree and the spice from the delicious carrots. Paired with Australian Shiraz from Barossa valley and Singapore sling.

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Wrapped this meal with gluten free spiced apple cake.

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Kopke 10 year port

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The next few hours were spent between sleeping and watching movies. I watched a total of 4.5 films on this flight and still managed to sleep for about 8 hours. Thats how much time there is on this flight.

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Around 2 hours before arrival, I decided to have myself a pre-arrival meal from the refreshments menu.

I started off with a Non alcoholic cocktail: Apple Bliss: bitter lemon soda, sprite and apple juice. Very tasty, never thought to mix apple juice with bitter lemon soda.

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I ordered Rice noodles with braised pork belly and vegetables. The pork belly was so flavorful and melt in your mouth. The broth was rich and soothing. What a lovely meal.

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After I changed out of my PJs and walked by the galley, the crew asked me if I needed anything else, and I asked for a cup of Guatemala single origin coffee before landing. We hit some heavy turbulence right after so they came out and apologized that my coffee would be delayed as they cannot serve hot beverages during turbulence and it was heavy enough that they had to be seated. A few minutes later I was served the wonderful cup of coffee.

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Shortly after, we were on descent into Singapore Changi International airport and arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule despite our slightly late departure from JFK.

And so concluded a wonderfully blissful and comfortable 19 hour journey from New York to Singapore aboard the world’s longest flight.

Singapore Layover

I had a 6.5 hour layover in Singapore and opted to enter the country to grab a quick breakfast in town since it was open and super easy to enter, all you need is to fill out a health declaration form and show your proof of vaccination.

I ordered a Grab to head to Heap Seng Leong, one of the last remaining traditional breakfast/Kopi (coffee) shops in Singapore.

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At first, I sat there not knowing how to order or who to order with. The owner, one-man show, told me to hold on a minute, but I saw more and more people come in and they just all ordered directly with the man. I thus got up and placed my order directly with him. In true Singaporean fashion, you can order in English, Mandarin or Hokkien, though Mandarin and Hokkien preferred. Cash ONLY.

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Kaya toast and Kopi roasting atop a coal stove.

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I ordered Butter Kopi, coffee with condensed milk and butter, very tasty, butter was not salty but adds a creamy textured. Soft boiled egg with soy sauce and white pepper, and Kaya Toast.

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Following breakfast, I ordered a Grab to head to Jewel Changi. Sadly I was too early and the waterfall featured was not turned on yet. But it really is such an amazing place to visit and really does live up to the hype. Beautifully designed.

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I then proceeded to Terminal 3 to go through security and head to the SilverKris Lounge. Currently and until May 22, there is only one SilverKris lounge for all business class passengers and a roped off section for First Class. Though on May 22 the new SilverKris lounge and First Class/Private Room are due to open. The lounge was quite large and quite packed at 8AM. There is a main buffet section serving up Indian, Singaporean and English breakfast options including Laksa. Grab and Go section with sandwiches, fruit cups. Self-serve alcohol sections as well as a full sit down bar at the front. Thankfully showers were open and available and that was my first stop as I had not showered for over 24 hours.

I then found one of few remaining seats/ tables by the windows and grabbed a bit of dim sum, coffee and water. The lounge started to die down by 9AM as most passengers headed for connections to Australian/New Zealand or Southeast Asian destinations. Nonetheless, I did not stay too long and headed out to shop around, walk around and stretch my legs a bit before my next flight.

SIN-TPE

Date: May 6, 2022

Flight: SQ878, SIN-TPE

Aircraft: 9V-SCE, 787-10

Distance: 2,004 miles, 4 Hours 25 Minutes, 11:45 Dep, 16:10 Arr.

Seat: 17A, Business Class

I headed to my gate in Terminal 2. 30 minutes prior to departure, boarding began.

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Singapore Airlines 787s are fitted with the airline’s regional business class, which are still in a 1-2-1 configuration and a lie flat seat, same ones used on Turkish Airlines 787s , which are truly a tad narrow. But for regional flights from 4-6 hours, perfectly comfortable.

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I was warmly welcomed by the crew. The business cabin had only 7 passengers including myself to 3 crew. What a great ratio. I was walked to my seat and offered an pre-departure beverage, and even offered to have my picture taken as the flight attendant saw me snapping away. I opted for some Charles Heidsieck champagne.

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At my seat was a pillow, blanket (regional style, not as plush or large as the longhaul ones), water bottle, headset in the storage unit and sanitation/care kit.

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The flight attendant came by shortly to introduce themselves and confirm my Book the cook order of the famous Lobster Thermidor as well as take my post-departure beverage order. The beverage list was near identical to the SQ23 longhaul one, which is nice to see.

Soon doors were closed and we were off, and interestingly we departed from a newish? or newly connected runway that normally hosts the Singapore Airshow, as the other main runway was under repairs.

First thing’s first, Singapore Sling.

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I think given the light load, there was no cart service. They simply delivered each person’s tray directly to them. Throughout the meal service they kept coming through to offer water refills, ask to refill wine / cocktails and bread as well. Amazing.

First up, Giant lump crab salad with spiced mango, super good, and a glass of Bordeaux. The salad was refreshing with a nice dash of spice and zest.

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Of course, more garlic bread

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Exit-Singapore flights longer than 4 hours have an extensive list for Singapore Airline’s famous book the cook service. The Lobster Thermidor with potato and veggies. Super tasty, lives up to the hype.

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Ending the meal with a moist banana bread pudding

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There were more tea selections on this flight but when I ordered the Iron Goddess tea, they said it was not available unfortunately, and so I went with some Pu-er tea.

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I spent the rest of the flight just relaxing, watching a movie or 2 and had another glass of Bordeaux shortly before we approached Taipei. I then arrived in Taipei for a nightmare of a COVID arrival process. But thats another story.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, a great way to fly through and through. I would not hesitate to buy confirmed or redeem points and fly SQ23 or any of Singapore Airlines’ ultra long haul flights to get to Asia or Australia. They have designed and curated a thoroughly comfortable flight paired with tasty food, good wine and beverages and of course Singapore Airlines’ reputable service.

Bon Voyage!

TheGastronomicTraveler

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